Many westerners have a romantic view of India and other Hindu countries as the magical land of Maharajas and festivals and colour and ancient castles where Hinduism flourished. A strong association with Yoga and healthy eating also goes a long way in ensuring Hinduism as a religion (or a way of life as it is advertised these days) of joy, harmony and kinship with nature.
But it is a religion nonetheless and since the number of Hindus around the world is increasing with India becoming more powerful politically and economically, a rather sad and heinous side of one of my former religions needs to be addressed.
Its roots go back hundreds of years, almost a 1000 years- a time when Hinduism and its influence on politics was at its prime.
Hindus were originally divided into Varnas. Varna refers to how light or dark your skin is. The priests and those in charge of translating the vast Hindu scriptures (they literally put the rest of the world's religions to shame in terms of the volume) also happened to be rather light skinned. They called themselves Aryans- a term which has been politically modified in recent terms to designate people whose nose and other facial features are similar regardless of colour.
Although the term does not have a negative connotation among Hindus any longer, it became the source of the caste system that was to follow. What originally started out as a sharp distinction between light skinned and dark skinned, turned into a society with people of myriad of shades because people started to mix. Although this caused an urgency among upper caste Brahmins, their ability to interpret the scriptures any way they wanted allowed them to create a whole new system- the caste system. A complete societal control was now possible because one could "claim" someone was born into a lower caste because of his karma in his past life (among other retarded reasons).
Not all Brahmins were supportive of this of course. The Yogis- those detached from everything political and even everyday normal life, vehemently opposed this. But the Brahmins, and their army of Kshatriyas (the ones below the Brahmins- the royal and ruling class) held too much sway.
What started out a 1000 years ago as a means of political and economic control still goes on today in India. Believe it or not- there is a strong correlation even today among Indians in India who are successful financially and who are light skinned. While it's not true all the time, it is true MOST of the time- especially in Northern India. Most Bollywood actors and actresses are very light skinned- so much so that blonde white actresses have begun surfacing in the Indian movie Industry.
Being dark skinned really is a curse. Even today, as this clip below shows, the stark boundaries between the upper class Brahmins and lower classes (and generally dark skinned) Dalits (or untouchables) exists everywhere in India.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuwTgz-LFzo
Had Sonia Gandhi been a black African, she would never had led the Congress party of India to a political victory. She is Catholic but has accepted Hindu ways of life and is surrounded with Brahmins and upper caste Hindus.
South Africa gained international notoriety for its treatment of Africans because of the explicit nature of their segregation. The segregation in India and among any Hindu society (even here in Canada or the US) is implicit and rather subtle. Every Hindu is a racist in the sense that they can only marry people of a certain caste- a blatantly racist segregation. Ever since I was a child all I heard around me was the need to want to be fair and beautiful. This commercial of a beauty product says it all.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubbufbkbovY
The most vicious aspect of Hinduism's racism comes from one of the most important stories every Hindu child grows up reading: That of Prince Rama of Ayodhya (which is in Northern India) and his rescue of his wife Sita from the hands of the demon God- Ravana. This great story is about victory of good over evil and is far better than any present day super-hero series.
After Ravana captures Sita and takes her away to Lanka (a direct reference to present day Sri-Lanka), Rama consolidates a large army of monkeys and eventually kills Ravana and his army of Asuras (demons). Ravana himself was an Asura and so was everyone who resided in Lanka. One of the characteristics of the demons is that they're all dark skinned. Obviously the ancestors of present day Sri Lankans were there 1000 years ago. They're the same people. The fairy tales of Rama are obviously that- a fairy tale. Yet it is a fiction derived from observations- namely that of the stark contrast in skin colour between the Northern Indian heroes and Sri Lankan vilains. I couldn't imagine being associated with the "demon people" simply because I am rather dark.
This inherent apartheid system in Hinduism has at its core the backing of a religious order- a belief system that almost all powerful politicians and businessmen in India subscribe to. This is exactly why India's fervent religious inclination needs to be uprooted before its growing alliances with another nuclear and equally religious power- Israel, results in some serious crimes against humanity.
India has 100s of nuclear weapons, produces more engineers than any other country(second only to China) and most of them (even those who immigrate to the US) are strong believers. The religious fever in the US can be dwarfed. A more scientifically literate Hindu society that associates Hinduism with science is almost impossible to change.
Wake up Indians and Hindus!
1. I was born into a Brahmin family
2. I am not from India and have no relatives in India but do have a lot of friends from there
3. I am "lighter" skinned than most "brown" people (just so you know I am not a grieving about my own situation)